As Confederate monuments are coming down in the Southern United States, even further south, in South America, the Confederacy lives on in a different way.
Every year, the Festa Confederada (Confederate Party) is held in Santa Barbara d’Oeste, north of São Paulo, to commemorate the Confederate ancestry of the approximately 10,000 to 20,000 Southerners who fled the U.S. for Brazil after the Civil War, establishing a colony that became known as Americana.
Known as “Confederados,” they immigrated to Brazil between 1865 and 1885 rather than live under the influence of the Northern states or risk prosecution for treason. The Brazilian emperor Dom Pedro II, hoping to boost the country’s cotton production, sweetened the deal by offering cheap land and a consistent way of life: Brazil was the largest importer of slaves in the Western Hemisphere and did not abolish slavery until 1888, the last country in the Americas to do so.
Over the generations, the ex-pats intermarried, became intermixed in the culture, and spread all throughout Brazil, while retaining some of the cultural traditions from the early United States. Portuguese is the dominant language at the Festa Confederada, but the festivities include traditional Southern dress—including hoop skirts and Confederate uniforms—food, music, and dancing on a floor decorated with the Confederate flag.
The celebrations that take place each year at the Campo Cemetery, a.k.a “the Cemetery of the Americans” (originally founded because non-Catholic Confederados could not be buried in Brazil’s cemeteries) celebrate this heritage. However, especially in today’s political climate, the racial implications of celebrating the Confederate South can’t be ignored. Some festival attendees don’t realize that the Confederate flag is a symbol of slavery and racism in much of the United States, while others hold that it signifies very different things in Brazil.